Questions you should ask home care agencies

by the Editor, SeniorInsider | Jun 01, 2011

Home care agencies vary widely in the services they offer, the costs, and the reputation of the company as a whole. It’s extremely important that you do your research and ask the right questions of the home care agencies before you hire one. While most all home care agencies will have certain things in common, their actual services may be as different as night and day.

Basic Questions to Ask Home Care Agencies


You will want to know how long the home care agencies have been in business, and whether or not they develop a written, personalized plan for each client and the client’s family, and if that plan is regularly updated as needs change.  Ask the home care agencies how emergencies will be handled when they occur after hours and whether or not they provide a document which states the client’s rights as well as the company’s code of ethics and privacy policy.

You must ask the home care agencies how closely their employees are supervised, and whether they require a daily written log of duties performed.  Is there a social worker on staff who will make regular visits to your loved one’s home and determine whether the services being provided are adequate? Does the home care agency have a registered nurse on staff that oversees any necessary medical procedures?

Services Covered by Most Home Care Agencies


Home care agencies will all offer some assortment of elderly home services which may or may not include medical and health care. This is an important distinction should your loved one require medical procedures or services.  Ask your home care agencies whether or not they involve a doctor or other medical professional in the ongoing plan of care for your loved one. If your loved one requires medical services, make sure they are comprehensively covered, and if they only need personal care services, make a detailed list of the specific tasks you need help with.

Licensing of Home Care Agencies


It’s important to ask the home care agencies about their company history as well as the ownership of their company. Find out what type of license they have, and whether it’s through the state. The company should be bonded as well as licensed, and you will want to know whether each agency is backed by a national firm which is reputable and in good standing. Check to see what professional organizations the home care agencies are involved in, and whether there are any negative reports to the state regarding the home care agency.

Home Care Agencies and Their Employees


Are employees of the home care agencies screened and re-screened, including criminal background history, driving record, and reference checks? Are they drug tested? What about continuing education for all employees as well as initial training as a requirement for the position?  Who is responsible for ensuring each employee does their job properly, and who would you report any problems to? Ask if there is backup help should your regular aide be sick or take time off, and whether or not a home visit is conducted in the beginning.

You will definitely want to find out whether the home care agencies manage all payroll, tax and employee-related matters, and you will want to ensure they fully comply with state and federal guidelines regarding employment practices.  You will not want to end up owing money or being responsible for Worker’s Compensation or other employee taxes. Make sure you know whether or not the agency in question uses independent contractors, and if they do who actually employs the person, conducts the background checks and pays the necessary taxes and withholdings.

Does the agency you’ve chosen provide special training for Alzheimer’s and dementia care? This is an important consideration if your loved one has cognitive disorders. How is my family protected in case of theft, and what is the procedure for filing a complaint should it become necessary? Make sure you are completely clear on billing practices and how you will be billed. You will also definitely want to know if there will be extra fees for certain services. It’s a good idea to have a written contract which thoroughly answers all these questions—as well as any others you may have.

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